Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My evolution as plant lover… what’s yours?

Recently it seems that every plant I’m drawn to is a “shrub”… I appear to be obsessed. Ten years from now my garden might be a very scary place. Or maybe since my “zone identity” is decidedly warmer than my zone reality…things will be kept in check.
Garrya elliptica growing in the Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, it’s a shrub I’m lusting after.

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly when this happened, the shrub infatuation I mean. For the longest time I was inclined to garden with only perennials. Tender ones too! Going back further there was the grass phase, the bulb phase and stretching wayyyyy back I even had my “pretty flower” phase.
Another ‘shrub’ I wish I had room for Argyrocytisus battandieri (Pineapple Broom).

I’ve never gone through the tall tree phase, mainly because I think small trees look goofy, I’m impatient, and I’ve never had the budget for big ones. That’s a blessing in disguise though because I do want all the sun I can get and trees inevitably cast shade. Why the sun craving? Because I’ve always been in an Agave phase.
Acca sellowiana (Pineapple Guava)…tropical flowers and hardy in Portland, how could I not want one!

So has your planting profile evolved over time? Maybe you did it the "right" way and first planted a tree or two, followed by a few shrubs and then (only then) filled in with perennials, gasses and bulbs? Or maybe you're a flowering perennial/grass loving gardener like my friend Scott? Please share…

38 comments:

  1. I did it "backward" too: first annuals, then flowering perennials, grasses, shrubs/trees, bamboo. (I'm glad I didn't fall for bamboo earlier, or I wouldn't have the mix of plants I do today.)

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    1. I wonder where bamboo falls in my progression? I guess I really saw it more as a utilitarian plant. A fast growing pretty screen.

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  2. I was more concerned before with 'collecting' and more 'collecting', ticking the box until I started to ask the question 'what for?'. Sounds enigmatic but it mainly means I'm more selective, and at the same time more relaxed with my approach to gardening and collecting plants.

    And there's also a line I sometimes draw between hardy and not hardy, the latter sometimes becoming a criteria why a plant becomes not worth it for me. Scheffleras for example, I love the genus but I don't bother acquiring lots of borderline to tender ones.

    You're not the only one enamoured by shrubs and even small trees. I'm loving my mahonias at the moment :)

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    1. Thoughtful reply thank you! I know many people might think I'm an Agave collector but I've never felt like such. I just love them and hope to add ones I'm especially enamored with to my garden (because I do consider the containers to be part of my garden). I have no desire to have every agave!

      "What for/why" is an excellent question to stop and ask ourselves from time to time.

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  3. I want a Garrya *so* badly but I have no room for one. I spent the last two years obsessed with shrubs and had never even considered gardening with grasses. They just weren't on my radar until I started reading Scott's blog. Now I'm obsessed with ogling grasses and vines. I'm too scared to actually buy any large grasses, lest I choose the wrong one.

    I'm secretly hoping to strong-arm you and Scott into designing my front yard. ;)

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    1. As Scott indicates I don't think there will be any strong arming necessary. Plus you are going to have a few designers in your garden for our upcoming exchange...hey...that works out quite well!

      On the topic of the Garrya yes you do!!! Just look at that lawn in front of your house...there is plenty of room for one! Seriously.

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  4. That Garrya is beautiful and I'm putting Pineapple Guava on my list.

    I did start with shrubs here because of the size of the yard and the level of difficulty with most plants in my area. The biggest change is my view of cacti and succulents. I don't think I actually said "never", but pretty close. Now I regularly add them to the garden.

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    1. Wow...I know you've mentioned that you are a recent Cactus and Succulent convert but I think this the first I've realized your former avoidance ran so deep. I'm so happy you've come over to the dangerous side of things!

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  5. Holy crap! I didn't know there was a right way. I'm going to say I went at gardening catawampus!!! LOL

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    1. Oh you know, right way according to the books! But what do they know anyway?

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  6. Garrya elliptica really grabbed me when we lived near Portland. There's a very nice specimen on the northwest corner of Bishop's Close.

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    1. Never been to Bishop's Close...need to fix that I suppose. (and yes, I've said that before)

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  7. My current garden was planted from scratch as my house was a new-build with just dirt out in the back.

    The first things that went in out there were bamboo, Phormiums, Acers, various grasses, some Cornus and Euphorbia. Very traditional I guess. Although my two trees (Betula albosinesis and Metasequoia glyptostroboides) went in a few years after it was started. I sometimes worry about the eventual size of the Metasequoia, but I did read that the lack of summer heat here in Scotland will stunt its growth (thankfully!)

    Up until a few years ago I was very much a sun worshipper with regards to plants, but I decided to redesign my front garden, which is north-facing, and then discovered the wonderful world of shade-loving plants like Podophyllum, Rodgersia, Epimedium, ground ferns, etc.

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    1. Yes you have a good point about those shade lovers. I know I've (rarely...but it happens) looked around my garden wishing I had a few more shady spots to tuck things.

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  8. I was always told that gardeners go through an evolutionary process, from annuals to perennials to shrubs & trees and eventually conifers. Could be we are simply in the grip of some Darwinian phases over which we have little control?

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    1. Oh gosh...that's kind of creepy!

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  9. My obsession evolved due to my lack of skill (and general laziness) I started with more tropicals such as gingers, bananas but soon found I killed far too many and didn't have the space for them. It was then that succulents started sneaking in and I haven't looked back since.

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    1. And here's hoping you never will! I'd hate to see your obsession turning to say "fairy gardening" ...

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  10. Pretty flowering perennials and annuals will always be my main deal but I love it all. Bulbs, succulents, shrubs, trees. My reason for loving smaller scale perennials and annuals is that you can have many many more of them if you live on a small property. You are much more limited with large plants unless you have acres of land.

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    1. I've never claimed to want acres but I suppose it does give one a certain level of freedom.

      Do you do the Pinterest thing? I "pinned" a couple of photos from your post yesterday and BAM! they were re-pinned by others in seconds flat.

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    2. Cool. I do but I am always forgetting to pin things so I'm sure mine is looking rather anemic at the moment.

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  11. I think we probably all go through our phases...and tastes will always change (or sometimes we even just lose interest in some things)? Believe it or not, when I was very young, I was obsessed with tropicals! Growing up in the Midwest, of course, I couldn't grow most of them...but I was fascinated by huge foliage and giant, exotic flowers. You can imagine how different my garden now would be had my tastes not changed! Over the years I became more and more interested in a more naturalistic style. Living in rentals for so long however, my gardens tended to be pretty simple, since I didn't want to leave behind expensive plants. Right around the time we bought our house I discovered the New Perennial Movement (Piet Oudolf, Noel Kingsbury, etc.) and it totally gelled with my own feelings on plants and gardens. I would definitely like more shrubs and trees...but I'd need WAY more room :-)

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    1. Oh gosh I didn't mean to pigeon hole you! I just remember your commenting once that you have no desire for Shrubs in your garden. And of course I am excited about the fact you're considering a Manzanita...

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    2. Hahaha...you're totally right...I bet I did say that...I DO tend to be dramatic at times, don't I! Honestly, you're spot-on...and I obviously do choose perennials/grasses over shrubs almost all of the time (ok, practically all of the time), and there are only a few shrubs that really tempt me to give up some space for them...for now ;-)

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  12. I'd say I went first for Mediterranean and tropical everything (read: zone 9-12), then perennials, then trees. At our last garden we had the room for some smaller ornamental trees and I planted a madrone among others. (Still love that tree and visit it regularly!) More recently I've been drawn to the Agavaceae and grasses, while still cherishing those Mediterraneans and drought-tolerant shrubs of all sizes I can grow in zone 8. It's been a meandering path of discovery and I have far more tender species than before.

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    1. I hope the current owners of your beloved Madrone are treating it well! And that your tender species benefited from our mild winter (this mornings snow excepted).

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  13. First it was palms, then plants with huge leaves like bananas & gunneras, then broadleaved evergreens, and then I entered the realm of spiky plants & succulents, followed by grasses, Japanese maples, edible plants, and thanks to Far Reaches Farm I think I'm on the brink of the next phase: shade plants.

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    1. Hopefully you get Far Reaches newsletter and saw their link to your "purchase post"...I think they really appreciated it!

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  14. I am too much of a gardening dork to doing anything in the right order. It usually goes something like this: eeewww, that's pretty. Hmmm, I really don't have a place for it. But it's so pretty. I really shouldn't spend money on a plant that doesn't grow in my zone, but it's so pretty. I really can't afford it. Oh what the heck it's pretty so I'm gonna get it.50% of the time it sits in a pot and dies before I can plant it. I'm a pretty, expensive, plant murderer.

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    1. Good thing I don't shop with you, you sound dangerous!

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  15. I am a solid shrub guy, but had enough sense to leave room for perennials and a few pockets for annuals (one of the few decisions I got right).

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    1. "solid shrub guy" certainly paints a picture!

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  16. I went from Mediterranean perennials to bananas to agaves and aloes to bamboos to cacti and weird succulents like caudiforms and pachycauls. In other words, from plants I could actually put in the ground to stuff I have to bring inside for the winter. But lately I've begun to take an interest in southern hemisphere shrubs (like grevilleas, leucadendrons, proteas) and ginkgo trees. If we had a larger property (an acre or two), my obsession would become scary!

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    1. If I could grow Protea and Leucadendrons my obsession would become scary too!

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  17. I really enjoyed this post and it got me to thinking, so I carried the theme alone. Thanks for visiting and your comment. I still have very little inclination to do annuals but I would so love to have the room to expand into trees..... I so want Davidia involucrata.... I am tempted to buy one and see if I can somehow keep it dwarfed!

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  18. Love, love, love shrubs and trees and no matter how small the garden, it still needs bones! And in winter, what good do perennials do you? Thanks for a good post and pointing people in the direction that they might not venture on their own.

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  19. What my garden looks like reflects the amount of room available. Balcony only? OK, rock garden plants. I've always loved it all, soup to nuts. But having just "deshrubbed" the back garden quite a bit last year, I realized I need more space for ephemerals and perennials and find their arrival (and disappearance) really exciting. And it's a constant disappointment that there is absolutely no more room for trees. I do miss trialing every cistus I could get my hands on, but they always grew enormous. Definitely a trend toward scaling down in size here. Thoughtful post as usual, Loree!

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